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Housing program move proposed
From Martinsville to Danville
Sunday, March 9, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville is considering turning over its housing assistance program, which also serves Henry County residents, to Danville as a money-saving measure.
The move could result in several city employees losing their jobs. However, city and county households in the program still would be served locally by officials who would come into the community on a scheduled basis, said Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Martinsville City Council will consider a resolution to transfer the administration of the city’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to the Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
About 430 Martinsville and Henry County households now participate in the Section 8 program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing them with a total of about $1.7 million in annual aid toward their rent and utility expenses, according to Knox.
Section 8 refers to a section of the Housing Act of 1937 that authorized federal assistance payments for rental housing.
Adoption of the resolution would be the first step in the transfer process, Knox said.
Before a transfer could occur, he said, HUD officials in Richmond would have to consider the proposal, come to Martinsville to audit program finances and records, and then make a recommendation to HUD officials in Washington.
The Washington HUD office ultimately would decide whether the transfer would occur, he emphasized.
By transferring the Section 8 program to Danville, the city would save up to $65,000 annually by not having to operate its Housing Services Office in the former police academy building at 605 Fourth St., Knox estimated.
Costs for administering the program have risen in recent years as housing regulations changed, and Martinsville either has seen an operating deficit or barely broke even at times, Knox said.
A program coordinator, a housing specialist and a part-time inspector in the office could lose their jobs, he said.
Danville likely would hire some people to administer Section 8 to Martinsville and Henry County residents, and “you’d logically think they’d hire the people who already are doing” the work, but that cannot be guaranteed, Knox said.
If Danville takes over Martinsville’s program, authority employees “would come here on scheduled days to meet with folks” receiving Section 8 who need to talk with them, he said.
Space at the municipal building might be used for the authority, or it might rent an office somewhere else in the community, Knox said.
Martinsville-Henry County residents would be able to call a toll-free number to reach Danville housing officials at times when they are not in Martinsville, and some transactions and correspondence may be done by mail, he said.
Transferring Martinsville’s Section 8 program to Danville’s authority probably would take about a year to complete if there were no financial or legal issues to overcome, Knox wrote in a memo to City Manager Leon Towarnicki.
Officials from the authority will participate in discussion of the proposed transfer during Tuesday night’s council meeting, which will be held at the municipal building on West Church Street uptown.
The council doubles as the Martinsville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
If the transfer occurs, Knox said, the authority likely will have some “mass meetings” with local Section 8 participants and landlords to explain changes they could expect.